State of the Union

I usually keep my discussion rather geeky and technical here. However, I read Bush’s recent 2007 State of the Union Address, and I was wondering about a few things.

Framing Environmentalism

I was pretty keen to hear what he might have to say about global warming, and doing more to protect the environment. The warming taking place, unlike other warmings and other large scale events, is caused because of human behaviour. Warming caused by things we are doing today, like driving around, using lots of electricity, and buying things from far away places. I wonder kind of impact every can of Coke sold has on the environment? How can I find out what impact the stores around me have on the environment? I wonder if there is a negative environmental impact from the extra time and energy spent using devices and interfaces with poor usability? And I wondered what Bush would have to say about it.

Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists — who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to our economy.

This quote isn’t really out of context. It’s the introduction to about 5 paragraphs devoted to addressing evironmental issues. The words global warming are absent. The words that make us responsible for the environment are absent from his speech. Only at the very end his treatment on this subject does Bush agree that we need to “be better stewards of the environment, and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.” But at this point it’s too little, too late. It sounds like an afterthought, tacked on to appease critics. Bush admits no responsibility for the environment. He doesn’t admit that we are causing the climate change.

So, if reducing oil isn’t for the purpose of correcting our abusive relationship with the environment that is causing global warming, what is Bush’s incentive? He explains back in the first paragraph: limit surface area exposed to “hostile regimes, and to terrorists,” “who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments, and raise the price of oil, and do great harm to the economy.” This is really insightful: the biggest problem with terrorism is the money oil companies stand to lose. Sounds like the people who stand to gain the most by Bush’s efforts are those in the oil industry. In fact, it doesn’t sound like he wants to actually reduce all oil, just the oil we consume from American competitors.

Bush outlined several suggestions on how we might make progress on the “oil dependency” problem, and some of his suggestions, like alternative fuels, biodegradable fuels, and so on, are good ones. However, the plan is a ten year plan. A ten year plan is fine, but where is the 6 month, the 9 month, the one year, and two year plans? Absent, along with the admission that our current relationship with the evironment isn’t exactly stewardly.

The War

The war against “our enemies” has always confused me. I’m not sure what nation ours is at war with. I’m also not sure who “our enemies” are, besides the usual vagaries. One thing I am sure of is that war is a big deal. It shouldn’t be a business, and it certainly shouldn’t be “business as usual.”

Mr. Pantalons de Feu, professional Fear Monger

Bush says, “Our success in this war is often measured by the things that did not happen.” However, I find this viewpoint to be very hypocritical of him, since he insists on reminding us of the violence directed at us by the terrorists:

  • Five years have come and gone since we saw the scenes and felt the sorrow that the terrorists can cause.
  • We know with certainty that the horrors of that September morning were just a glimpse of what the terrorists intend for us — unless we stop them.
  • For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same.
  • We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast.
  • We broke up a Southeast Asian terror cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States.
  • We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America
  • And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world.
  • In the mind of the terrorist, this war began well before September the 11th, and will not end until their radical vision is fulfilled.
  • Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: “We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse.”
  • Osama bin Laden declared: “Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us.”
  • In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended. They have not.
  • To allow this to happen would be to ignore the lessons of September the 11th and invite tragedy.

Twelve reminders of violence directed towards, us, seven direct mentions of 9/11, 4 direct references to names associated with 9/11, for a total of 11 reference to 9/11. For a guy that says that the situation is incorrectly framed in terms of what didn’t happen, he sure loves to remind us of the painful things that did happen.

Apparently, we should remember our fear, but forget his blunders, witch hunts, and the goose chases Bush used to justify the war in the first place. There is a name for people who say one thing and do another. There is another name for people who will say anything to obtain agreement, and then say anything to keep from getting caught. A good way to save face is to deflect attention away from what you did to what other people did. As long as they are more guilty than you, people will forget about your mistakes. Good strategy.

Success and Failure

Bush and friends spend quite a lot of rhetoric on success and failure. They claim that those who are for the war vote for success. In addition, he affirms that no one wants failure, and that thus, everyone voted for success, whether for or against “the war.”

War == Death

Since Bush mentions 9/11 so many times, we might assume he considers this a causal factor for beginning the war. Since, according to Bush, the war is intended to keep America “safe and secure”, I thought I might do some quick looking around to assess this safety. The event that catalyzed the war was 9/11. If the goal is safety and security, then presumably, a lower death toll attributed to terrorism after this event would indicate an increase in safety and security.

On 9/11, 2,973 died, according to wikipedia, a few more are “missing presumed dead”, and many more were injured. Since the war, more people have died due to the war, and thus due to terrorism, than died in the 9/11 attacks. According to Yahoo’s convenient report as of 1/23/2007, at least 3,067 military deaths have been recorded. In addition, to deaths in other countries, the report mentions that “Since the start of the U.S. military operations in Iraq, 23,114 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department’s weekly tally.” In addition, some news reports indicate, with about 95% certainty, that the Iraqi death toll has exceeded 601,000! More than two orders of magnitude greater than our own losses. While Bush doesn’t accept these figures, despite the research being overseen and published by reputable sources, his own figure is around 30,000 deaths in Iraq. That’s still a LOT of people.

If safety and security is a goal, then surely we have already failed. I wouldn’t dare correlate an increased death toll with an increased measure of safety and security.

“My way or the highway”

However, Bush provides another goal for the war:

Our goal is a democratic Iraq that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror.

I wonder if Rome had a similar mindset during the Pax Romana? Assimilate or war are apparently the only options available, according to Bush. Either Iraq becomes more like the U.S., or the war will continue.

The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must.

While these are nice goals, they sound creepy coming from the President. I like adages, and there are several that apply here. “The right tool for the right job.” “Honey attracts more fleas than vinegar.” If peace, justice, and the American Way, freedom are goals, then why send 20,000 more troops into Iraq? Why does Bush need to use a gun to make peace?


The thing that frightens me the most is the apparent scope of this war. For starters, which nation are we warring with? Bush mentions Iraq a lot, but he also mentions other countries, such as Lebanon and Afghanistan. What happens if you add some of his statements together?

The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must.

In the last two years, we’ve seen the desire for liberty in the broader Middle East — and we have been sobered by the enemy’s fierce reaction.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we’re in.

It sounds like he’s preparing to widen the scope of the “who” question to more than just Iraq. However, he quickly backs off, saying, “So we’re deploying reinforcements of more than 20,000 additional soldiers and Marines to Iraq. The vast majority will go to Baghdad, where they will help Iraqi forces,” but he’s already shown himself willing to say anything to get his way. Next, Bush admits: “Ladies and gentlemen, nothing is more important at this moment in our history than for America to succeed in the Middle East, to succeed in Iraq and to spare the American people from this danger.”

At face value Bush plans to continue warring in the Middle East. The war is not limited to Iraq, and once we’re “done” there (whatever that means), the plan is to continue fighting. It’s particularly sobering that he’s asking to send almost the same number of troops that were injured into Iraq. At best, this is to replace the troops no longer present due to injury and death, and thus we can only expect more of the same. More of the same won’t work, in the long run. More of the same isn’t different from what’s already been, which is continued, indefinite war.

Surely, something must change… maybe the war will be over soon? What clues can Bush give us as to how long the war will last? Bush hints at it early on, by saying, “The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9/11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that’s the case, America is still a nation at war.” The length of the war is a property of the hate directed towards us. As long as there is hate directed towads us, we’ll be at war. Later, Bush says, “This war is more than a clash of arms — it is a decisive ideological struggle, and the security of our nation is in the balance.” An ideological struggle? I’m certain I didn’t sign up for an ideological struggle. Who signed up for an ideological struggle? Was it in the fine print? Finally, Bush explains the true length of the war: “The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. ” Bush intends for the war to last for a long time spanning generations.

More of the same won’t last for generations. Perhaps he’s got a plan for how to stretch the 20,000 filling the gap from the last several years to cover generations? Yes, the plan is to “increase the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years,” and “design and establish a volunteer Civilian Reserve Corps.”

This project is a literal death march. Another adage is “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” So rather than expect different results, a common error among planners, we should expect largely similar results. In another three years, the 20,000 that Bush plans to send will all be injured or dead. In two years beyond that, aproximately 15,000 of the 92,000 additional active troops Bush plans to spend will be injured or dead. That takes us to the end of his five year plan. In five years, we will quickly approach 100,000 total injured or dead Americans in the war. And that’s before we go into generations of wars, or start any discussion of where he intends to war next.


Ultimately, asking the basic ‘W’ questions helps us reason about different things. Who, what, when, where, and many times, the most important, why. When it comes to war, ultimately this war will be defined by who of how many people need to die before we lay down our guns. Apparently hundreds of thousands of people isn’t enough to begin to quench Bush’s appetite for war for even 8 years.

I find it grotesque that our nation’s leaders have plans to provide safety and security that involve more deaths and injuries than before those plans were laid. Moreover, I object that the plans to cause this violence are more specific than, and will be executed faster than, the plans to conserve and protect the Earth, even as our leadership continues to deny our role in causing its destruction. I wonder if the nation’s leadership having close ties to the industries that make money off these plans have anything to do with the situation. I think they call that a “conflict of interest.”



  1. Posted January 25, 2007 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

    Could you turn down (or off) the thermostat when you leave for the day? Our PG&E bill went up by over 50%.

  2. Posted January 25, 2007 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    Sure, good idea.

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